Committee on Physician Assistants
Peer Assistance Programs
The Board of Medical Examiners’ Committee on Physician Assistants has contracted with the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program to assist in safeguarding health care consumers in Tennessee by providing a consultation, referral, and monitoring program for physician assistant practitioners whose practice is impaired or potentially could be impaired due to the use of alcohol or drugs, or a psychological or physiological condition.
Facts about Chemical Dependency and Health Professionals
Chemical dependency is a chronic, progressive illness that can be treated effectively. As with all chronic illnesses, the earlier the identification and treatment, the better the prognosis.
Chemical dependency can be simply defined as the continued use of alcohol or other mood-altering drugs even after negative consequences have been experienced. Negative consequences can be in the form of problems at work, damaged relationships, legal charges, and many others.
Approximately one out of every ten health professionals has, or will develop, a serious problem with alcohol or some other mood-altering chemical substance at some time in their career.
Health professionals may face a higher risk of chemical dependency because of the stress of their profession; knowledge regarding the dosage and effects of mood-altering drugs; the tendency to self-diagnose and self-prescribe; and practical experience focusing on others’ needs instead of their own.
Warning signs and symptoms of a drug or alcohol problem may include any or all of the following: mood swings, inappropriate behavior at work, frequent days off for implausible reasons, non-compliance with acceptable policies and procedures, deteriorating appearance, deteriorating job performance, sloppy and illegible charting, errors in charting, alcohol on breath, forgetfulness, poor judgment, poor concentration, and frequent untruthfulness.
The hallmark sign of chemical dependency is DENIAL. Denial is a psychological defense mechanism that most people use subconsciously to keep themselves from realizing how serious a problem really is. Professionals with chemical dependency are experts at minimizing their problem and convincing others that everything is "under control".
Objectives of the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program
Protect health care consumers from potentially unsafe practitioners
Offer treatment options, monitoring, and advocacy to practitioners, employers, and health profession students on chemical dependency.
Benefits of the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program
Protection of the public by early intervention and removal of the impaired practitioner from practice
An alternative to disciplinary action is available to the practitioner – no report is made to the Committee on Physician Assistants if the practitioner is compliant with treatment recommendations and the Professional Assistance Program.
Advocacy for the practitioner with employers, potential employers, and the Committee on Physician Assistants.
Eligible Physician Assistant Practitioners
Licensed Physician Assistants and licensure applicants as referred by the Committee on Physician Assistants
To Make a Referral
A referral to the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program can be made confidentially by an employer, employee assistance program professional, a co-worker, practice partner, family member, friend, or the practitioner him/herself.
It is helpful (but not required) if the person making the referral has a list of objective information including times, dates, and incidents that support the allegation of impairment.
If the practitioner is willing to undergo a thorough evaluation to determine the extent of the problem and any treatment needed, in most cases all information can be kept confidential from the Tennessee Committee on Physician Assistants.
Contact the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program to:
Obtain more information about the program
Ask general questions about impaired health care professionals
Consult with program staff about a specific professional with a suspected problem
Report a health care professional with a suspected or identified problem
Schedule an educational presentation about health care professionals and chemical dependency
Tennessee Professional Assistance Program
545 Mainstream Drive
Nashville, Tennessee 37228-1201
Phone 615-726-4001 or 1-888-776-0786